NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Girls in middle school and high school often have needs that are “extensive and scary and overwhelming,” said Pam Gibbs, a leader in girls’ ministry work.
To address the challenges that churches face in working with preteen and teenage girls, a Girls’ Ministry Forum has been launched by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The inaugural forum drew about 200 leaders and girls from 16 states to LifeWay’s offices in Nashville, Tenn., for both large group sessions offering leaders and girls time to join together to hear speakers and panels, along with breakout sessions specific for the girls and for the leaders.
Following this year’s two-day gathering in late February, the 2011 Girls’ Ministry Forum will be Feb. 25-26 in Nashville.
LifeWay also offers an Inside Girls Ministry blog at www.lifeway.com/girlsministry.
In a panel discussion during the forum, Leslie Hudson recounted that the girls’ ministry at her church, First Baptist in Dickson, Tenn., “grew from the fact that we saw our student ministers come and go” — three in six years.
“Two of the moms and I realized that our girls were particularly drawn to us,” said Hudson, a Sunday School teacher at the church. “We just looked and saw the girls were coming to us anyway, so it made sense for us to be the core leadership for the ministry.”
Gibbs, LifeWay’s girls’ ministry consultant, advised the forum’s attendees, “Be careful that you don’t make the girls’ ministry event-driven. As you begin with the big kickoff, remember that it’s in the small groups that real ministry and relationships happen with these girls.”
Jimmie Davis, girls’ ministry director at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., encouraged the leaders first to pray about beginning an outreach, then seek the pastor’s and student minister’s blessing on the work. “You will need to do this ministry under their authority, so let them know that is your intention,” Davis said. “Emphasize that you in no way want this ministry to be something just out there on your own, but that your want it to fit into their ministry plan.”
The Girls’ Ministry Forum provided an opportunity for “training, encouragement, support and accountability,” Gibbs noted in comments written after the gathering.
“I have heard many girls’ leaders (both paid church staff members and volunteers) say that they feel like they are ‘all alone’ in trying to reach out to girls. The needs are extensive and scary and overwhelming. An event like this allows these leaders and teen girls to realize that they aren’t alone. Others are passionate about reaching teen girls. Other teen girls realize that they are not alone in pursuing a godly life and wanting to make a difference on their campuses and in their world.”
Girls’ ministry is gaining traction in churches, Gibbs wrote, citing the number of women and girls who attended the inaugural forum, along with an increase “in the numbers of phone calls, e-mails and responses from our blog.”
“With our culture’s onslaught on teen girls, many church members and youth ministers are recognizing the unique needs of teen girls that just cannot be met in a mixed-gender setting.”
Gibbs addressed various other facets of girls’ ministry, including:
— A girls’ study based on author/speaker Beth Moore’s study on Esther.
“The story of Esther appeals to women and girls because it’s the story of all of us in one way or another,” Gibbs said. “It’s a story about being put in a situation you’re not prepared to face. It’s a story about standing up for something that matters to you and something that could cost you greatly. It’s a story of greed and selfishness (Haman); it’s a story of God’s providence; it’s a story that reminds us that even when God seems to be completely absent (the name of God isn’t even mentioned in the book), He is very much at work and we can trust that He will bring about a good end for His glory. I think the story of Esther appeals to all of us because we can all see ourselves in the story in one way or another.
— The place of mentoring in girls’ ministry.
“Mentoring and discipleship make up the heart of girls’ ministry,” Gibbs said. “It is the mandate of women to pass along the faith to the next generation. Titus 2:3-5 commands the older women to teach the younger. All of us, no matter our age, can teach someone younger. And we can all learn from someone older. The truth of the matter is that godly men cannot model for us what it looks like to be a godly woman. They can teach godly principles and can even model what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but only a godly woman can show the next generation of girls what it’s like to be a godly woman.
“And what I’m hearing from teen girls is that they DESPERATELY want the instruction, guidance and leadership of women in their lives. And the kicker is that the girls soak up instruction from women of all ages, not just the ‘cool’ college student or young adult, which debunks the myth that older women don’t have anything to offer these teen girls.”
— How a woman can help a girl through her struggles.
“Teen girls need to know Truth -– as it’s presented in Scripture, as God’s Word is applied to their individual situations and in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (and not just a set of dos and don’ts),” Gibbs wrote. “This generation of girls is living in a culture where truth is defined by the person speaking, and that can be very confusing to them. What are they supposed to build their lives on? Teen girls need to know that there is something True that goes beyond their own cultural setting, beyond their own definition, beyond even their own personal preference or comfort. Women need be willing to speak and live that Truth out in their daily lives and to be willing to speak Truth to girls (in love and grace) even if it’s unpopular.
“Teen girls need unconditional love. They need to know that despite what they do (poor choices and stupid mistakes) or don’t do (act right, make the team or achieve a 4.0), they are loved. Today’s culture tells them that they are loved for their bodies, for their behavior and for their performance, but when they fail to meet someone’s expectations they are no longer loveable. They need to have the Gospel lived out in front of them and need to have people who will be willing to love them at their worst.
“In short, they need grace and Truth lived out in front of them and for them, much like John 1:14, where the Word became flesh and was ‘full of grace and truth.'”
Adapted from reports by Polly House, a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.